The Dallas Cowboys fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 26-17. It left them in third place in the NFC East behind the undefeated Eagles and the 5-1 New York Giants. The Cowboys let Philadelphia jump out to a big lead, gave the ball away three times, and once again racked up crucial penalties. They did battle back from a deep hole to make it close in the fourth quarter, but still wound up at 4-2.
It was a game where the Eagles’ staff found a good way to limit the effectiveness of star defender Micah Parsons and where Cooper Rush certainly came crashing back to earth. And while the loss certainly stings, the Cowboys still are in sixth place in the NFC and certainly have a path to the playoffs. More importantly, this is expected to be the last game they play without Dak Prescott. That should help with some of the offensive woes that led to the disappointment in Philly.
Coming into the game, the Eagles had dominated in the second quarter all season, and this was a continuation. The first quarter ended scoreless as the Cowboys only had two possessions and mustered just a single first down. Philadelphia mounted a long drive that would take 7:36 off the clock, and the final play would be their first of that second quarter they have owned.
One thing that emerged in that first drive was how they were countering Parsons. Rather than trying to block him on plays, they were putting him between Jalen Hurts and a receiver in a run/pass option. They would just go the opposite way Parsons would react, and it was very effective. On that first scoring drive, they faced a fourth and three and got twelve yards with a pass right over Parsons’ head.
One reason the Cowboys managed to win four games in a row with Rush at quarterback was that he did not turn the ball over, at least on plays that counted. But that came crashing to an end on the very first play after the opening touchdown of the game. Rush’s pass to Michael Gallup was deflected by James Bradberry and picked off by C.J. Gardner-Johnson. That set Philadelphia up at the Dallas 44. They then started running the ball effectively, putting the Cowboys’ defense on its heels. The seven-play drive was capped by a touchdown to A.J. Brown that was almost identical to the one they used on their first scoring drive to neutralize Parsons.
On their next possession, the Cowboys went three and out, but a replay of the third down pass to CeeDee Lamb on third down showed that he reached the ball across the line to gain before his knee was down. Mike McCarthy did not challenge the play and the Cowboys tried on fourth down but failed. The defense would hold and force the Eagles to settle for a 51-yard field goal, but that still left Dallas in a 17-0 hole.
The Cowboys needed to get something going on offense, but instead Rush would get intercepted a second time, this one by Darius Slay. Again the defense would hold Philadelphia to a field goal, but they had done nothing on offense.
They finally got a spark from special teams as KaVontae Turpin came up with a 63-yard kick return from in the end zone to put the offense at the Eagles’ 41. The Cowboys would drive to the 12-yard line and for a moment it looked like they had a touchdown pass to Noah Brown, but replay showed he was just out of bounds when he landed on his hip. They had to settle for a field goal and went into halftime trailing 20-3.
They needed to stop Hurts and the Philadelphia offense and then get something going. Failing to do so would have probably meant it was all over. But first the Cowboys defense forced a punt that was returned by Turpin to their own 21. Then the offense finally got going. Rush started hitting TEs Jake Ferguson and Sean McKean, Tony Pollard got some good runs, and they would cap a seven play drive with a 14 yard Ezekiel Elliott touchdown run.
Now the lead was down to ten points. The defense would get off the field despite an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Parsons thanks to a sack by Dante Fowler for a loss of twelve yards.
Turpin had another nice return wiped out by a penalty that forced them to start from their own seven. Again, they would put together a drive. Elliott would get some good runs, Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, and Brown would have receptions (one of which should have been called back on a block in the back), an illegal contact penalty moved them closer on a play that was a first down anyway on a pass to Ferguson, and then Rush went back to the rookie for a touchdown.
Seventeen straight points now had Dallas down by just three with 14:39 left in the game. After a first half when the undefeated Eagles looked like a far superior team, the Cowboys had clawed their way back into things with some strong defense and an offense that finally woke up. Part of the equation was that Philadelphia lost RT Lane Johnson to injury.
The Eagles went to the run at that point, and began to move the ball. Then Anthony Brown missed a tackle on A.J. Brown and they got inside the 10 before Hurts found DeVonta Smith for a TD. Trevon Diggs was called for another unsportsmanlike conduct flag and Philadelphia elected to try a two point conversion from the one-yard line. That failed, but it still left the Cowboys behind by two scores, 26-17, and just 7:02 left to play. The third Rush pick of the night would wind up sealing things for the Eagles and end the backup QB’s unbeaten streak. The last gasp came when Brett Maher missed a 59 yard field goal that would still have forced Dallas to get the ball back and score a touchdown with just over a minute to go.
If you want something positive to think about, not only is Prescott looking like he will return, the schedule ahead does not look daunting. If QB1 is ready to go and plays up to his ability, things could still work out well.